The Shutdown Showdown: A Public Image War

Thursday, October 03, 2013

An end the shutdown Democratic Caucus press conference. October 2, 2013 (Rep. Keith Ellison/flickr)

The government shutdown has become an all-out war of theatrics. 

While the shutdown has had a very real impact, particularly on the 800,000 furloughed government workers, the shutdown has also become a battle of public relations.

As each side continues to sling mud, the finger pointing becomes evermore intense. Yesterday President Barack Obama met with Wall Street executives to tell them they "should be concerned" about the gridlock in Washington.

House Speaker John Boehner added his voice to the conversation, saying that "Washington Democrats have slammed the door on reopening the government by refusing to engage in bipartisan talks." And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also engaged in the blame game, saying "the American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists."

So the American people aren't just sitting and watching the government standstill—they're getting a show to go along with it.

President Bill Clinton "won" the shutdown showdown of 1995-1996, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, examines who will come out on top in the 2013 image war.


Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Hosted by:

Todd Zwillich

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger


T.J. Raphael

Comments [4]

unkerjay from Puget Sound, WA

This whole idea of withholding funding unless one get's one's legislative way is antithetical to good government. It is not good governance. This notion that when WE do it, it's justified, when YOU do it it utterly unreasonable is indicative of the fact that both sides do it, if they don't do it, they learn from it and it becomes an equal tool of obstruction.

The fact that it has become such a persistent tool under this administration either says something about this administration or a sea change in the adversarial nature of legislation. Either we have the ability to debate, discuss, and resolve differences or we're just taking sides, ignoring the consequences, the facts, digging in and refusing to budge.

Left OR right, it's NOT what we should expect OR deserve of our representatives.

Rest assured, republicans who are patting themselves on the back today over what they hope will be the consequences of their actions will be gnashing their teeth, and bemoaning the actions of democrats tomorrow when the roles are reversed. This isn't speculation, it's documented history. They use the tools available to them. If you don't want it used against you, don't use it in the first place. If you think this is just about taking issue with Obamacare (ACA), you're missing the larger point.

In a nation of "redder reds and bluer blues", 24x7 news cycles and sources of (dis)information, Limbaugh, Maddow, Coulter and Matthews, we are getting locked in, not to broad level headed discussions of issues, but, to echo chambers in which we "hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see". We need to listen to opposing views. We need to be districts of opposing views in which republicans OR democrats OR other candidates have a fair shot at winning. Safe districts are good for re-elections, but NOT, as we are discovering, good governance.

This is NOT a recipe for republican majorities as far as the eye can see. It is NOT a recipe for democratic majorities as far as the eye can see. It IS a bellwether for the fact that our system is seriously broken and needs fundamental reform. Only the most delusional could possibly look at things as they are and proclaim that this is good and right and as it should always be.

Oct. 05 2013 08:57 AM
Jack Witt

For the people, including senators and representatives, who think "non essential federal employees" are just pigs at the trough: Think about how you react when the power goes out during a storm. A few hours is an adventure, maybe an inconvenience. After a couple of days food in the fridge goes bad. Then the stuff in the freezer melts. Then you start hollering for the government to do something.

Oct. 04 2013 12:26 PM

We prefer to blame the government, be it a political party in general or an individual politician for problems we as a society have allowed to happen. For our government to improve requires we first stop and look at our own lives. Many of us have messes we would rather avoid or postpone correcting. We kick our can of trouble down the road just like the can politicians kick down the road. It is the same can. We are all in that can, individuals and politicians.

I like to say we are in need of a good flush.
This bumper sticker illustrates my mind:

Oct. 04 2013 12:25 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Government should never shut or slowdown NASA . I want off this crazy rock.

Oct. 03 2013 02:21 PM

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